What does it mean to 'live in the moment?' I struggled with depression from age 12 until a few years ago. And sometimes, in my frustration with ‘happy people’ who use phrases like ‘just live in the moment’ or ‘enjoy the now,’ I’ve thought - ' what does that even mean?!'
But lately I have been learning more about what it means and I believe there is actually something to it.
Here are some thoughts -
You can't just move away from your feelings - they are with you wherever you are and so why not try to better understand yourself (stop running away from, trying to change or trying to avoid our emotions).
What is being mindful? Not being lost in thought, being distracted or overwhelmed by difficult emotions, but instead learning how to be in the here-and-now, how to be mindful or present. It's seen as ordinary and not valued, but we spend so little time in the present that it's anything but ordinary.
Being aware and intentional is something that is like muscle memory - the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
When you are doing something - like driving your car or cleaning the house - are you thinking about something else or are you present in the moment? Are you hearing all the sounds and using all your sensations while focusing on what you are doing?
Harvard research paper that recently came out states that our minds are lost in thought 47% of the time. This constant mind wandering is a direct cause of unhappiness. That means half of our life is not intentional - we are lost in thought and unhappy, which is tragic when can do something about it.
Mindfulness is not about controlling thoughts or emotions, it's more about taking a step back and taking everything in (without judgment) and with a relaxed, focused mind.
In our search for happiness, we run around making a lot of noise and doing a lot of ‘things’… and we miss what we are actually looking for.
Meditation can create a framework to practice living in the moment, mindfulness, awareness and letting go of the things that don’t serve us and that bring unhappiness.
Recently I listened to talk that pointed out that the best scientific indicator of happiness is doing one thing at a time (from a study completed in 2016). They said that the latest and largest studies show that the greatest determinant for happiness is whether or not your mind is wandering. In other words, are you living in the moment (fully engaged or experiencing your experiences) or are you thinking about something else? Even if you are thinking about something 'good' while doing something you don't normally enjoy, you will be less happy than if you focus on the one thing that you don't normally enjoy. Interesting results.
Mind wandering question - are you thinking about something else when you are doing what you are doing? The key indicator, people are substantially less happy when their mind is wandering while they do something - even if the activity is unpleasant and they are thinking about something pleasant! It’s the opposite of what you would probably think.
Mind wandering is a cause, not a consequence, of unhappiness.
After a while of ruminating on this (months in fact), I had no breakthroughs. I realized that I wanted to apply this because it finally made sense to me that it would be 'good for me', but I didn't think it would have a drastic effect necessarily. There was no paradigm shift, no particularly strong motivation to do it … but then - out of the blue - it hit me… I currently NEVER live in the moment. For some reason that small, seemingly insignificant realization finally made it click and I realized that I am always thinking about multiple things and that I never even consider being totally present and that it is sure to negatively effect me.
To show what I mean –
When I am in the middle of a task (or the beginning for that matter), I am constantly keeping track of all the other things that have to happen in the day and especially of the things that are pressing down on me and causing me the most stress (you know the tasks you dread). And so I don’t enjoy any of it. I'm not able to be present and be aware. I'm not able to notice the small things or appreciate what I am doing. There is no ‘joy in the journey.’ My brain is focused on so many things that I end up hating the whole process from beginning to end!
And even if I finish a task, I don't allow myself space to appreciate that I finished it because I'm already thinking that ‘it took me too long and I have so much else that has to be done and that I got started too late to begin with’ and there is no joy in the journey or in an accomplishment… or in anything really.
Things that help train your mind to live in the moment:
Journaling (increases awareness and you set apart time to just let yourself think)
Doing manual labor without any media or noises
Just letting your mind do it's thing, without trying to control it
*Note to reader: This is a conglomeration of ideas from various podcasts and books, mixed with my own reflections.